Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Everything You Always Wanted to Know . . . Desktop Manufacturing

Desktop 3D Printers

Welcome to part 2 of this topic- Desktop 3D Printers

Like 3D scanners, 3D printers have already reached the small business market and are now just entering the individual consumer marketplace. Their build envelopes are limited but what could be cooler than printing your own action figures, robot parts, or 3D portraits?

* The RepRap project is an open-source project aimed at creating self replication rapid manufacturing machines. Based out of Bath University, the project shares its plans and the RepRap community can build as is or make their own improvements, which they can then share.

* At the other end of the Desktop 3D printer spectrum comes the V Flash from 3D Systems. Rather than making your 3D printer from scratch you can buy this smaller version of traditional additive manufacturing technology. It is priced for small businesses and schools.

* In the same market space as the V Flash, Solido bills their SolidPro300 as the “world's most cost efficient and flexible 3D printer”. In the US the SolidPro300 is distributed by Enser.

* Between RepRap, the V Flash, and SolidPro300 comes the Makerbot Cupcake CNC. Makerbot sells a kit for the Cupcake CNC but the customer puts it together. Like RepRap, they also host a community called Thingverse. Though their community revolves more around the 3D models than the machine itself. They are also working on a 3D scanning kit.

* HP has also recently announced that they are entering the market in an agreement with Stratysis who will produce mainstream 3D printers using Fused Deposition Modeling technology.

The above examples are just a small selection from a quickly developing marketplace, but they are a good indication of what home scanning technologies are just around the corner. Thanks for reading “Everything you always wanted to know about 3D scanning”, we hope it is has been an informative series!

If you have any questions feel free to contact us at info@dirdim.com.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Everything You Always Wanted to Know . . . Desktop Scanning and Manufacturing

Chapter 10, Part 1: The Future - Desktop Scanning and Manufacturing

Before we finish our series “Everything you always wanted to know about 3D scanning” we wanted to take a moment to talk about what we think is the immediate future in 3D scanning and manufacturing: the technology is going Desktop.

In the last few years, companies have been creating more products with smaller footprints, at much lower price points, making the technology a viable tool for schools and medium to small businesses. In addition to these new products, students and hobbyists have been creating (and sharing) do-it-yourself versions of 3D scanning and rapid manufacturing products. Soon we could see 3D scanners and printers in home offices!

Coming in the near future – to a home workshop near you!

Commercial Desktop and Handheld Scanners

There are a few digitizers and scanners out there that are sized and priced for the small business. The price points are not yet for your everyday consumer, but it is getting closer all of the time.

* One of our favorite desktop digitizer/scanners is the Microscribe. It is a miniature articulating arm that is easily portable, is compatible with most popular reverse engineering and metrology packages, and offers near metrology level accuracy in a small package. Obviously you are not going to digitize an airplane with this – but we consider it the first major desktop digitizer (an attachable scanner is also available).
* 3D metrology has also entered the realm of handheld and wireless. eMicroscibe also now offer the MobiGage, the first handheld 3D metrology app. You don’t even need a computer, just a Microscribe and an iPhone or iPod Touch, to take measurements.
* Next Engine also offers a desk top 3D laser scanner. Its compact size, ease of use, customer support and price point are quickly making it a popular choice for small businesses and individuals.

Open Source, Consumer and Up-Coming Scanning Technologies:

While they don’t come close to offering the same kind of accuracy as current available scanning systems, there is a burgeoning community of small businesses, hobbyists and students who are working to bring 3D scanners into the home. New products are rapidly developing.

* Qi Pan, a student at Cambridge University has created ProFORMA, which uses a web cam to collect data and create a color 3D model.
* David Laser Scanner offers a kit to build your own basic scanning system using every day objects like a web cam and hand held laser pointer.
* Perhaps the ultimate in DIY scanners, Friederich Kirschner used Legos, a webcam and some milk to create 3D models.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this chapter- Desktop Manufacturing. If you have any questions about desktop scanning equipment, like the Microscribe, feel free to contact Direct Dimensions. We're happy to answer any questions.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Call for Papers - CMSC

The Coordinate Metrology Society (CMS), the eminent membership association for measurement professionals, proudly announces the "Call for Papers" for their 2011 Coordinate Metrology Systems Conference (CMSC).

The 27th annual event will be held in Phoenix, AZ from July 25-29, 2011. Metrology professionals from leading manufacturers and science laboratories are invited to submit abstracts for technical papers and presentations covering industry best practices, scientific research and developments, and successful applications of 3D coordinate measurement systems. Abstract submissions will be peer reviewed by the CMS Executive Committee and considered for presentation at CMSC 2011.

Click here for more information.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Case Study: 3D Scanning for Historical Preservation

Quality Magazine recently ran a story about our 3D scan project for the Maryland Statehouse. You can read the story below.

Archiving the Past

Restoring the original architectural design of The Maryland State House – a Georgian style building built during the Revolutionary War – was made easier with 3-D imaging technology.

In summer 2008, Direct Dimensions Inc. (DDI), a 3-D laser scanning services firm, performed digital archival work at the Maryland State House in Annapolis, MD. The Maryland Statehouse functions today as the oldest continuously used State House in the nation. It was in the room known as the “Old Senate Chamber” within the Maryland State House that George Washington submitted his resignation as the Commander of the Continental Army on December 23, 1783.

A major renovation planned for the Old Senate Chamber, which included removing the plaster walls to show the original brick surface, created a unique opportunity to document the initial structure of this historically important space. With the brick uncovered for only a short period, the archivists wanted to find a way to quickly and accurately document the chamber.

Given the significance of this structure, DDI was quite willing to demonstrate the 3-D digital capabilities that can be used to not only document but also help analyze the existing structure, site plan and even restore the building.

“The archivists had employed a fairly high-tech program, so we were excited to show them our 3-D imaging technologies to help them stay ahead of the curve,” DDI Business Development Manager Harry Abramson explained.

With only one day on-site in Annapolis to document the entire chamber, the DDI engineering team chose the Surphaser HSX medium-range laser for the project. The Surphaser scanner works by sweeping a laser over a specified area. This then returns a high-definition data map of the surfaces touched by the laser. The resulting data can be up to half a billion of points on the surface map, which is shown as a point cloud. This point cloud is used to model an exact digital replica of the scanned structure.

The Surphaser laser scanner was a perfect tool for this project because it was easily portable and able to quickly laser scan the entire Old Senate Chamber room, which included its exposed original brick walls, plaster ceiling, wood plank flooring, a small second story balcony and the architectural ornamental elements. The scanner, mounted on a tripod like a camera, collected raw data in the form of a dense 3-D point cloud of millions of coordinates of the elements within the chamber. In the end, these 3-D laser images formed a high-definition survey of the entire space, a process that could take weeks using conventional measurement tools.

With the scanning complete, the team returned to DDI, where the raw data scans were loaded into PolyWorks software and then coordinated and aligned together to form a single point cloud of the entire space. The point cloud was processed into a digital mesh and surfaced.

The 3-D model of the Old Senate Chamber was provided for the Historical Structure Archive for the State. The model represents a complete digital duplication of this important space. Due to its resolution and accuracy it could also be used to replicate historical elements in exact detail, should the need arise. The same data can also be used to create architectural elevation drawings, 3-D animations and walkthroughs, or even a miniature physical representation.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

3D Scanning Newsletter - November

This month we highlighted some great 3D imaging industry events that are offering the opportunity for you to give back and share your knowledge and expertise with others in our field. We attend, support, and often give technical presentations at these events and always have a wonderful experience!

We also provided a list of some of Direct Dimensions' favorite sites, forums and blogs about 3D scanning.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Thankful in 2010

Despite the continuing economic challenge, Direct Dimensions has been fortunate to have had another successful year in 2010! This would not have been possible without our wonderful customers, supportive vendors and phenomenal hardworking employees. In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, we would like to express our thanks to everyone who contributed to making 2010 a great year for Direct Dimensions.

Thank you to our customers for trusting us to scan your priceless sculptures, airplanes, historic buildings, inventions and everything else you ask us to 3D digitize for you.

Thank you to our vendors for providing us with the incredible hardware and software products that allow us to scan and model so many types of objects.

And a special thank you to our amazing employees for all of your long hours, dedication, and creativity

At Direct Dimensions we are also thankful to be part of two rather extraordinary communities that we would like to mention.

Our company is located in Baltimore, which has one of the most vibrant high technology scenes in the entire U.S. In the last year alone we’ve been invited to participate in many technology showcases and events: Betascape, Tech Crawl East, TEDx MidAtlantic, the AME conference and several Greater Baltimore Technology Council (GBTC) events. The leaders and organizers of these events within our local tech community are an amazing and tireless group of people who inspire us on a regular basis with their creativity.

Thank you Baltimore techies for allowing us to be a part of your community!

Our informal 3D imaging families around the world are constantly innovating and supporting each other. We are honored to be part of so many groups that work so hard to educate us all about the remarkable 3D technologies that we all get to play with every day. Our friends and partners at SME, CMSC, SPAR, LiDAR News, and the UK Laser Scanning forum are a huge asset to the entire 3D imaging community.

And of course, thank you for taking the time to read and comment on our newsletters, blog and forum postings, and even our tweets.

Happy Thanksgiving from Direct Dimensions!


Monday, November 15, 2010

Project Snapshot - 3D Skull

At Direct Dimensions we recently 3D laser scanned this skull. The final digital model can be used for replication, visualization and even analysis.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Everything You Always Wanted to Know . . . Additive Manufacturing

Chapter 9: From Digital to Physical – Rapid Prototyping and Milling

Up to now we’ve been discussing putting physical objects into the realm of the digital, but before we finish this series we need to talk about another common application for our 3D scanning and modeling processes. Chapter Nine focuses on creating physical objects from digital data.

Important Terminology

Additive Manufacturing – the process of making a physical object from 3D digital data by layering materials; also known as rapid prototyping and 3D printing.

Milling – a subtractive process of removing material to create a physical object directly from 3D digital data by the cutting away from existing solid material.


You may be asking, why do I need a physical replication of my digital model? After all, we just spent a series of entries talking about turning your physical parts into various digital formats. But there are many good reasons to create new physical models of your data. Here are a few:

* Scaling: Making enlargements, reductions, or even exact size replicas...we can do it all. After a Digital Model has been created, there are few boundaries as to how big or how small we can replicate your object or part.
* Restoration: Our technology enables us to capture accurate 3D data that can be used for manufacturing to completely restore any object that has been damaged by weather, neglect, natural disasters, etc. such as historical monuments and artifacts or aged aircraft and automotive parts.
* Manufacturing Prototype: With a digital model, Direct Dimensions can create a physical prototype that can be used for testing or to manufacture final pieces, such as milling a foam sculpture for a bronze casting pattern or creating a finished prototype as a concept model for a new consumer product.

And now we can talk about the best ways to create the physical models.

Additive Manufacturing (AM)

There are a variety of additive manufacturing equipment manufacturers and processes on the market. Regardless of the type of AM, the various machines read the 3D data most typically in an STL file format. We discussed this format in earlier editions. The software within the machines then generates the layering instructions and directs the deposition of successive layers of material needed to build up the physical part. Essentially this part is created from cross sectional layers. The layers are fused together automatically and ultimately create the final shape, an exact physical replica of the 3D model. Additive manufacturing is an umbrella term that covers many of the following processes.

* One of the earliest and most common types of AM is called Stereolithography (also known as SLA). SLA builds pieces using a laser and a vat of UV-curable liquid resin. Each thin layer of resin is solidified and secured to the layer below with every pass of the UV laser. SLA is good for producing models, patterns, and prototypes. A downside to SLA is that it generally requires support structures to be included in the build, which is part of the SLA process.
* Another AM process is Selective Laser Sintering (also known as SLS). Unlike SLA, SLS can utilize a wide variety of materials such as plastics, metals, and ceramics although post processing may be required. SLS does not require support material while building since it is built and incased within the raw material. SLS uses these materials in a powder format and, by fusing the powder together, creates the layers needed to build the part. SLS is increasingly being used to create final parts for when mass scale production isn’t necessary.
* Similar to Stereolithography is Fused Deposition Modeling (also known as FDM). FDM, trademarked and marketed by Stratasys, also uses the additive platform build concept. Rather than raw liquid or powder, FDM uses thermoplastic materials which are applied through a heated nozzle that places a single thermoplastic bead at a time. These beads fuse together and harden as cooled. The plastics used in FDM are known for their strength and high heat resistance, making them good for product testing.
* Perhaps the most similar to regular 2D printing is the concept of 3D Inkjet Printing. The only rapid prototyping technique that can print in multiple colors, 3D printing also uses a powder base material, but rather than sintering the powder, an inkjet releases a dot of adhesive mixed with coloring, allowing the layers to be built with colors. While the final model is not generally as strong as the other three techniques it is usually cheaper and faster and the colored prints allow for good representation of final concepts. Recently 3D printing has been used commercially to create personalized figurines from World of Warcraft and Rock Band avatar characters.

The primary advantage to additive fabrication is its ability to create almost any shape or geometric feature relatively quickly and inexpensively. We generally say that for a small part, you can’t beat the price to complexity ratio. However the overall volume within a single build is generally limited for AM and for larger parts we recommend milling.


Milling is best described as a subtractive manufacturing technique. Most often used in the creation of metal production parts, tools, and molds for virtually any industry, an engineer, or even an artist, counts this as a well-tested valuable method. More advanced Computer Numerical Control (CNC) milling machines, like the various additive manufacturing machines, use a 3D CAD file to create a physical reproduction of the digital model. Unlike AM, CNC milling machines can utilize an extremely diverse range of materials including:

* Metals
* Stones
* Woods
* Waxes
* Plastics
* Even Glasses!

Milling steel or aluminum is a common option to make durable tooling. And stone and wood are common for sculpture and historical restoration projects.

Where is this all going?

We are almost done with our “Almost Everything You Always Wanted to Know About 3D Scanning” series. Don’t be surprised if we add additional chapters now and then; the field is constantly changing and growing. We wrap up this series next with talking about the immediate future of these technologies, including desktop (or home) scanning and manufacturing.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

3D Scanning Newsletter - October

This month's 3D Scanning newsletter contains the following stories:

Utilizing 3D Scanning for Historic Preservation: The Druid Hill Arch restoration project is a perfect example of how Direct Dimensions was able to completely document a historical structure in a single day.

Parametric Snowmobile Engine: University of Maryland Terps Racing team needed a snowmobile engine scanned and modeled to help them compete in a 2011 competition

Maryland State House: Unique medium-range 3D laser scanner gathers high accuracy dimensions for historic documentation

If you haven't signed up for our newsletter yet, you can do so here.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Everything You Always Wanted to Know . . 3D Visualizations

Chapter 8: Using 3D Data for Visualization

While we touched on visualization, one of several downstream applications in Chapter Six, the subject is so comprehensive that it deserves a discussion of its own.

As our lives become increasingly digital and interactive (via the web, video games, and even television and our cell phones), we have come to expect ever more realistic interpretations of real world objects within this virtual realm. One of the best ways to perfect the digital form is to actually copy the shape of objects into 3D via laser scanning and digital imaging.

Visualization applications generally fall into the following categories:

* Animations - 3D digital movies made from computer models
* Renderings - 2D images made from computer models
* Direct 3Dviews - real-time interactive web-based 3D visualizations
* ShapeShot™ - real-time interactive web-based 3D facial images


When most people think of computer animation they think of the neat special effects in blockbuster movies and the animated explanations of complex events on the nightly news, such as train accidents. Yes - 3D models are frequently used for those types of animations. But often these animations are pure visualizations where the dimensional accuracy of the objects is less important – as long as it looks good.

Our brand of 3D scanning and modeling is more valuable when the quality of the models is critical, such as for museum objects, or military simulations, or for animating highly recognizable objects for tv commercials such as cars. These situations require accuracy and authenticity, which scanning provides, so the objects in the animations look as real as possible. Often real colors and textures are captured and applied to provide that much more realism.

We have created numerous 3D animations from our 3D scanned models for a wide variety of applications including illustrating complex medical procedures, forensic analysis, describing historic preservation sites, and even for Hollywood movies and commercials.


Rendering is the process of creating a still image from a 3D model. High quality 2D renderings are often created from an existing 3D model that was originally captured for other purposes. These renderings can be used for graphical presentations, marketing, and even websites. For instance, if a product designer has created a hand-carved physical model for reverse engineering purposes, he can also use that same digital file to create awesome 2D images of his product for marketing graphics. The great thing about a rendering created from a 3D model is that it is highly accurate and quick to render out multiple lighting and background states to create multiple renderings without staging new photography shoots.

Direct 3Dviews

A Direct 3Dview is a fully-interactive real-time 3D presentation of a digital model in a virtual environment. This 3D model visualization can be displayed via a website, a PowerPoint, or even in a stand-alone format. The Direct 3Dview of your object can be used to create an on-line 3D catalog to allow web visitors to fully experience the product - virtually. Another great application is for 3D proofs of concept for a new design or invention in a collaborative viewing environment.

Features of the Direct 3Dview include:

* Smallest viewer on the web - the one-time plug-in is only 130KB
* Smaller digital file sizes = faster download times
* Easily integrates into web sites
* Viewer supported in e-mail as well as PowerPoint
* View file in actual 3D, not a series of images


ShapeShots™ are high resolution 3D snapshots of faces that are incredibly life-like. ShapeShot™ enables online personal interaction with amazingly real 3D avatars of you, friends, and family for social networking, online gaming, virtual collaborative environments, and fabrication of personalized consumer products.

New advances in 3D imaging technology have made it to possible to capture faces in a split second and receive an interactive 3D model within minutes with almost no effort.

Direct Dimensions is currently developing the ShapeShot™ concept. See www.shapeshot.com for more information.

From the Virtual to the Physical

The above examples are just a drop in the bucket when it comes to visualization applications. But what happens if you want to take your 3D model and make a physical copy of it? For instance, can you take your Guitar Hero avatar and get a physical 3D copy made? You can, and that process is called Rapid Prototyping or RP. Rapid Prototyping is just one of many technologies that fall into the “3D Printing” category and we’ll be talking about that next.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Case Study: Documenting Ancient Egyptian Artifacts

Sculptures in ancient Egypt were thought to grant eternal life to the kings, queens, and gods that they portrayed. The mystique of these eternal sculptures is just one of the reasons that we continue to be fascinated by the ancient Egyptian culture and the remarkable sculptures they left behind, many of which remain in museum collections around the world. Many museums consider their Egyptian collection among their most popular exhibits. The Tutankhamen and the Golden Age of Pharaohs, for example, is regarded as the most popular traveling exhibit in history.

Considered one of the finest Ancient Egyptian collections in the world, The University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has over 42,000 items in their collection. Direct Dimensions was approached recently by the University of Pennsylvania museum, known as The University Museum, with an exciting 3D project: the museum officials wanted to offer replicas of some of the most popular pieces for sale in the museum gift shop.

Given the well preserved condition of these original ancient artifacts, and the museums dedication to quality and authenticity, it was important that the replicas be made very precisely to the originals. The officials quickly realized that advanced non-contact 3D imaging technology would be needed to perform this task.

For example, with the age of the sculptures dating back to approximately 1300 B.C., it would not be possible to cast a mold off the pieces as this could damage the originals. Plus it was determined that some of the pieces would need to be reproduced smaller and larger than the originals, so direct casting would not work.

After preparing for the on-site effort at the museum, the DDI technicians scanned four different sculptures: the Amun, the Headless Princess, the Scribe, and a Kneeling King Tut. An articulating arm-based laser line scanner provided high accuracy and real-time feedback to assure complete capture before heading back to Baltimore to process the raw scan data.

For the post-processing, we used Innovmetric’s PolyWorks Modeler software to create highly accurate watertight 3D digital models of each of the ancient pieces. During both the scanning and modeling processes, specific attention was paid to fine cracks and other imperfections in the original pieces – qualities that would make the reproductions that much more accurate and realistic. Some of the models were also scaled to several different heights so that the gift shop could offer the reproductions at different price points.

The final digital models were formatted into STL files and fabricated using rapid prototyping to create high quality patterns. Then the museum arranged for a production fabricator to cast the reproductions in a high quality resin material.

The museum-quality reproduction sculptures are some of the most popular items in their gift shop and visitors are thrilled to bring a little piece of Ancient Egypt home with them.

If you are interested in purchasing a replication, you can call 215-898-4046.

If you would like to make museum-quality reproductions to raise funds for your museum, please contact Direct Dimensions.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

ShapeShot at GBTC TechNite tonight!

Recently at Direct Dimensions, we've been gearing up to show off our new ShapeShotTM concept for GBTC Technite 2010 and the Hottest Tech in Town competition.

Technite is a wonderful annual event held by the Greater Baltimore Technology Council that highlights all of the amazing work tech companies are doing in Baltimore.

This year they are also holding the "Hottest Tech in Town" competition where fifteen technology start-up finalists were chosen from an applicant pool of over forty-five applicants. The ultimate winner will be chosen by a combination of internet voting and a judges panel.

Direct Dimensions, showcasing our ShapeShotTM Technology, is excited to be one of the finalists. The event is tonight and voting continues until 6:30pm. Vote for Direct Dimensions HERE.

If you are attending TechNite this evening, make sure and stop by and get your ShapeShot. We are also launching a new app for Android so you can have your ShapeShot in your hand within 2 minutes!

Check out this video, made by Direct Dimensions Engineer Greg Chaprnka, showing the incredibly realistic and incredibly fast ShapeShot process.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

ShapeShot at Tech Crawl East

Are you intrigued by the idea of seeing a virtual 3D copy of yourself? If so, then you should definitely stop by Tech Crawl East in Baltimore tonight. The event is being held this evening from 5-9 pm on the first floor of the new Morgan Stanley Building in Fells Point.

Direct Dimensions will be presenting our ShapeShot concept in the 60 second pitch format, as well as taking ShapeShots (a 3D snapshot) of the attendees. Make sure to stop by our booth and say hello.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Vote for Direct Dimensions as The Hottest Tech in Town

GBTC (The Greater Baltimore Technology Council) is holding a "Hottest Tech in Town" competition as part of their 21st annual TechNite event. Direct Dimensions, showcasing our ShapeShotTM service, is one of the finalists and we would appreciate it if you took the time to vote for us!

Click here to read more about ShapeShot!

Click here to vote for Direct Dimensions as the Hottest Tech in Baltimore!


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Everything You Always Wanted to Know . . . Model Formats

Chapter 7: Digital Model Formats - The Many Flavors of 3D CAD

We’re going to take a little pause in our Everything You Always Wanted to Know About 3D discussion. We’ve talked about the many things you can do with a CAD model but that can lead to some questions. How can I use an OBJ file and how is it different from an STL? Can an IGES and a STEP file essentially be used for the same thing?

These are what we call the “Flavors” of CAD and we’re here to provide you with a short list to help clear up some details.

The Various CAD Flavors:

* ASCII (or ASC) – an X,Y,Z point cloud file in ascii text format.
* DWG - This is a native AutoCad drawing file
* DXF – “Drawing Interchange File” - a neutral version of a DWG file
* IGES – “Initial Graphics Exchange Specification” - a neutral format for exchanging CAD data between many different software programs
* OBJ – an open data format that represents the vertices of polygons
* PRT – a native CAD format for Pro/ENGINEER and NX (Unigraphics)
* SLDPRT – a native CAD format for SolidWorks
* STEP – "Standard for the Exchange of Product model data," (ISO 10303) an advanced neutral format for exchanging CAD data between many different software programs.
* STL – “Standard Tessellation Language” - a polygonal model format similar to OBJ and several others
* WRL (VRML) – “Virtual Reality Modeling Language,” a polygonal file similar to OBJ, STL and several others and can include color
* X_T - a semi-neutral CAD format

Wikipedia also maintains an extensive list of CAD file formats that might be of further interest.

Neutral Formats:

From the list above you’ll notice that some CAD formats are considered neutral, specifically IGES and STEP formats. These two formats were specifically created to neutrally exchange 3D CAD data across different CAD packages.

IGES was created in 1979 by a group of users (including Boeing and GE) with support from the Department of Defense (DoD) and NIST to exchange data more easily. Since the late 80’s the DoD has required that all Digital Project Manufacturing Data (PMI) be deliverable in IGES format.

STEP is an ISO standard released in 1994 to be the “successor” to IGES. While widely used it has never totally replaced the IGES format.

Extra Flavors:

While the above examples are standard across CAD packages, many industries, such as Architecture and 3D modeling for computer graphics have their own packages and files types. We like to think of these as extra flavors, like CAD dessert.

3D Graphics – 3D graphics formats are generally proprietary according to package. Some popular graphics programs are, 3D Studio Max, Maya and Lightwave. Popular gaming companies such as Blizzard Entertainment and other film studios often develop their own in-house formats. However, many consumer 3D graphics packages can import OBJ files.

3D Modeling for Architecture – A new style of modeling for facilities, such as buildings and processing plants, is developing rapidly. This new CAD software contains a relational database component to store metadata for the design entities, such as the style and make of windows or doors, or the schedule of the I-beams and piping. This new class of software is termed BIM for Building Information Modeling and is working to combine facilities management into the database concept as well.

The above list is just a small taste when it comes to the variations of CAD, but they are the most common files used. If you have any questions you should just ask your 3D service provider and they will be happy to help. You can always ask us questions at info@dirdim.com.

The next post in this on-going series will feature a more in-depth discussion and examples of using 3D data for various types of visualization. Stay tuned!


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Case Study: The Awakening

3D Laser Scanning and Digital Modeling Allow Precise Repositioning

“The Awakening” is a 70-foot tall sculpture by J. Seward Johnson, which depicts a man struggling to free himself from the Earth. The installation, which had been a landmark for nearly three decades in DC’s Hains Point, is comprised of five aluminum body parts: a right foot, a left knee, a right arm, a left hand, and a bearded face. It was originally installed in 1980 and became a well recognized attraction next to the Potomac. It had been on loan to the U.S. Park Service by the artist.

But by 2007, the piece was sold to a developer and it became necessary for the sculpture to be moved.

Moving the sculpture and re-installing it in its intended orientation proved to be a true logistical and spatial challenge. Jon Lash, CEO of Digital Atelier, called upon Direct Dimensions to find an affordable and accurate solution to document “The Awakening” in its exact current state and provide him with a 3D plot showing the intersections of the mating surface of the sculpture with the ground. The plots would then be used to prepare the new site to receive the sculpture in its original configuration.

In November, 2007, 52 scans of the sculpture were taken on-site in Hains Point, both with the Konica Minolta Vivid 9i camera, and with the Trimble FX scanner. A spherical scanner like the Trimble FX captures everything in its line of sight, radiating outward from the scanner’s origin.

In the scanning process, the sculpture was approached as five individual pieces, with the scanner capturing each individual piece in its entirety, as well as some of the surrounding pieces. This setup allowed the Direct Dimensions team to reassemble all the pieces together in a single coordinated model, using PolyWorks software. Each scan was scrubbed to pinpoint only the data set required, then properly aligned and polygonized into an integral model.

The final deliverables to Digital Atelier were complete 2D and 3D plots, which showed the entire sculpture aligned into a single coordinate system. These plots allowed the project’s engineers to prepare the new site for the sculpture’s relocation, which occurred on February 19th, 2008.

“The Awakening” now rests in its intended orientation at National Harbor, on the Eastern Bank of the Potomac River.


Friday, August 27, 2010

3D Scanning Downstream Applications: Visualization and Industry Specific Uses for 3D data

We wrap up this month's discussion of downstream applications with examples of visualization and industry specific uses of data.


This application definitely falls into the realm of advertising and entertainment but also museum presentations, legal cases, and even high quality training simulations are also all great uses for 3D model visualizations and animations.

* Direct 3Dview of your object – can be used to create an on-line 3D catalog or proof of concept.
* FaceScan – scanning a person for animations, avatars, mass personalization of consumer products, or even simulation programs.
* Animation – recent scans of people, objects, and structures have been used to create commercials, films, music videos, and video games.
* Rendering – high quality 2D renderings using 3D models can be used for marketing purposes. Renderings of structures and viewpoints have also been used in legal cases to prove/disprove eyewitness accounts.

This animation is a great example of scan data used for a visualization:

Industry-specific Applications

While many types of industries can utilize the previously listed applications, there are a few 3D model apps that are very specific, but we feel we should list:

* Architecture/Construction: scanning facilities for BIM databases and creating traditional blueprint drawings

* Museum Research/Fine Art: investigative scanning for provenance and comparative research

* Virtual 3D Worlds: 3D scanning facilities, objects, and people specifically for use in virtual worlds and social networks, such as Second Life

Same 3D Data, Many Different Uses: Repurpose!

Often, with just a little bit of extra work, you can create different, valuable deliverables with the same basic scan data or 3D model. Some examples are:

* A consumer products company has an object scanned so that it can be prototyped. What they might not know is that with a little tweaking of the model they can also gather the measurements needed to create perfectly fitting packaging and also creating photorealistic models for subsequent advertising or a virtual catalogue.
* An aerospace company has a cockpit scanned for human factors analysis. If enough data was initially collected, that same data could be used to help create training simulations.
* A major museum has a sculpture in its collection that is rapidly deteriorating and they want to scan it for documentation. That data could be used to create high quality mini replications to be sold in the gift shop or for research (possibly comparing it to similar castings by the same artist).

The Sky is the Limit!

The above examples are just a drop in the bucket when it comes to uses for 3D models. If you have a possible application that you think a 3D model would work for, you should just ask your 3D service provider if it can or has been done. If they are anything like us, they will either have already done it (or tried it) or be so intrigued by your application that they are willing to give it a shot! And if you can’t do it yet, check back often; new applications and methods are being invented every day.

The world of 3D imaging, modeling, and engineering continues to grow at such an incredible rate that older applications are always being improved upon and new ones are always being dreamed up.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us!


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Rapid 2010 Video Overview

If you didn't get a chance to visit the Rapid 2010 show in Reno you can watch a quick video overview below.

Look for Direct Dimensions taking 3D ShapeShots around the one minute mark!


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

3D Scanning Downstream Applications: Inspection and Replication


While we also covered this as a type of process, inspections are a great use for 3D data, particularly for any types of manufacturing. Using our advanced laser scanning and reverse engineering tools and processes, Direct Dimensions can inspect and analyze your part or object in a variety of ways:

* Compare a scanned part/object to a "nominal" or intended design model
* Compare a scanned part/object to 2D drawing dimensions
* Compare a scanned part/object to another scanned part/object


While this will be covered in depth at a later time, Replication is one of the earliest and still most important uses for a 3D file. Using either 3D printing or milling processes, your digital file can be created as a physical part. After you have laser scanned or reverse engineered your part, there are virtually limitless options for replicating that object. Replication can be used for:

* Scaling in either direction
* Restoration
* Manufacturing Prototypes
* Making Products


Friday, August 13, 2010

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About 3D Scanning: Downstream Applications


Yesterday we began discussing downstream applications for digital models. Today's downstream application is Reverse Engineering.

While Reverse Engineering as a process was covered in Chapter 4, it is also an application that is particularly useful in the Aerospace/Defense and Industrial Design industries. With a Reverse Engineered model you can make engineering and design changes of your part or object in a variety of ways or use it for specific types of analysis:

* Add or subtract design features to the existing part or object
* Use as a base model to design a new part or object
* Use model for FEA and similar analyses

A good example of this is an aging aircraft job that we worked on. For this job we laser scanned the existing pressure seals on the rear cargo door of several c-2 aircraft. The scan data was analyzed to re-design the seals based on the actual "as-is" door conditions. This process provided for accurate manufacturing and installation of the new seals. You can read more about this particular project on our website.

You can see an example of scanning an aircraft for FEA analysis below:


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About 3D Scanning : Downstream Applications

Chapter 6: Downstream Applications for 3D Data

In our on-going series about 3D scanning, we’ve reached the fun part! What can you do with a 3D model? Practically anything!

In a world that is increasingly digital, most industries now utilize 3D files in some fashion. We’re seeing them show up in many different places lately.

At this point in the process (having read sections 1-5), you have your 3D model from your scanned original part. It has been either digitally modeled into a polygon format or reverse engineered into a CAD format, according to your needs. But, you can do so many things with your 3D data – things you might not have even thought of yet!

Section Six covers the different downstream applications for 3D data files and because there are so many different applications to talk about, we are going to break out the info into multiple posts.

Downstream applications generally fall into the followings categories:

* Documentation/Archival
* Re-Engineering/Design
* Inspection/Analysis
* Replication/Reproduction
* Visualization/Animation
* Various Industry-specific Applications


After your part or object has been laser scanned and modeled you now have a digital "backup" of the object. Scan data for archival purposes is useful for a number of industries: Aerospace/Defense, Consumer Products/Industrial Design, Architecture/Historic preservation and Museum/Fine Art. At Direct Dimensions we’ve scanned many objects specifically for the purpose of creating a digital document. Archival scans have ranged from the Lincoln Memorial (post-9/11) to a huge rare meteorite to legacy aircraft parts that are no longer made.

This digital model will:

* Protect you from accidental part loss, almost like an insurance policy
* Provide you with a working "virtual" blueprint in order to rebuild, recreate, or remanufacture
* Give you the ability to start from a base model and create something new without having to start from scratch

A good example of something scanned for documentation purposes is the Lincoln Memorial.

You can read more about the Lincoln Memorial scan here or watch this animated fly-through we created using 3D laser scan data.

Check back soon because we'll be talking about more downstream applications including reverse engineering and inspection.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Case Study: Biodiesel University Mobile Lab

Promoting Energy Education in a Mobile Laboratory

Direct Dimensions traveled to a bus maintenance yard near Washington, DC to 3D laser scan a decommissioned city transit bus formerly owned by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. The scan was performed for the Biodiesel University, a non-profit organization based in Olney, MD which seeks to educate students, teachers, and the public at large about renewable energy and environmental stewardship.

Dan Goodman, executive director of Biodiesel University, called upon Direct Dimensions to aid in converting the donated WMATA bus into a mobile educational lab, which Goodman has described as “part classroom, part hands-on science center, and part theme park ride.” The engineering challenge required cutting-edge capabilities from Direct Dimensions to not only scan the bus but also to create an accurate 3D CAD model so the bus can be repurposed for its educational mission. Given the current energy situation and attention to renewable energy, the project was captured on video for a featured story on ABC News.

To start the project, Direct Dimensions industrial designer Glenn Woodburn used the FARO LS long-range 3D scanner to take six scans of the bus’s interior and exterior in less than two hours. Each scan collected over 25 million 3D points providing a very high-resolution ‘point cloud.’

This captured raw data was then provided to Direct Dimensions designer Dan Haga, who created an accurate and detailed 3D CAD model reflecting the actual existing geometry of the bus.

Then using concept sketches and design input provided by Biodiesel University, Haga continued to layout and design the educational lab including the placement of the operational equipment that will eventually be installed in the bus when it is converted for its educational purpose

The final work, delivered in digital format to Biodiesel University, included several photorealistic graphical renderings and a 60-second animated 3D virtual tour of the overall mobile lab design.

By showcasing these materials digitally through its website and email, Biodiesel University can generate additional support for its program and mission. “The renderings and virtual tours present the concept for our mission in a very compelling manner. We’re grateful for the effort and enthusiasm that Direct Dimensions has shown for our project,” states Dan Goodman.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Betascape Recap

Thanks to everyone who braved the heat and took the time to come see us at Betascape. It was an amazing event and we are already looking forward to next year.

We took over 600 ShapeShots (3D snapshots) of Betascape attendees, including Governor O'Malley.

If you didn't get the chance to come out and have your ShapeShot taken, you can see ShapeShot in action in this news story about Betascape:

A special thanks to Heather Sarkissian and her team for their hard work organizing the whole event.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

ShapeShot at Betascape

Going to Artscape this weekend? Intrigued by the idea of seeing yourself, your kids or even your dog in 3D?

Then make sure to stop by our ShapeShot booth in the Betascape tent and have your ShapeShot (a 3D snapshot) taken.

Betascape, being held in conjunction with the Artscape festival, will showcase innovative and interactive technology from companies all based in the Baltimore area. Activities for the whole family will include powertool drag racing, a robot exhibit, an arcade and video game hall, and the opportunity to get a 3D ShapeShot of your face!

ShapeShot will be at Betascape July 16-18. The Betascape tent is located outside of the MICA Brown Center.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About 3D Scanning Part 5

Chapter 5: Inspection/Analysis - Comparison to CAD

We are almost ready to move on to downstream applications for 3D models, but before we jump into that, we need to talk about one more application for scan data. Chapter Five will cover how this data can be utilized for quality inspection.

Important Terminology

CMM - Coordinate Measuring Machine, a mechanical device that obtains 3D coordinates by probing, may be either touch probe based or non-contact, portable or stationary, or motorized or manual.

Laser Tracker - sends a laser beam to locate a reflective target held against the object to be measured. The beam reflects back to the tracker and calculates the distance and angle of the targets location. Laser trackers are a great option when you need extreme accuracy over larger measurement ranges.

Color Map - a graphical display for visualizing dimensional differences between the measured shape of an object and its nominal CAD model; deviations are mapped to a color spectrum indicating location and magnitude. A reference key maps the deviations to values.

A History Lesson

While we think of the 3D scanning industry as something very new, the first 3D digitizers, Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMMs), were actually built in the 1960’s and the entire purpose of this development was to perform dimensional inspections. Fifty years later, inspections are still one of the most common uses for 3D digitizing and scanning systems.

In the late 1980s engineers at the then-Martin Marietta (including Direct Dimensions’ founder and president Michael Raphael) became aware of a company making articulating arms for medical measurements and they began working with the company (Faro Technologies) to develop a portable CMM for inspections in the aerospace industry. After the creation of the portable CMM, the options for 3D measurement and inspection exploded. Laser Scanners were added to the portable arms and then Laser Trackers were developed.

Twenty-five years later, portable scan arms are common measurement solution in major manufacturing firms across the world and in industries ranging from aerospace to automotive and power generation to medical.
Types of Inspections

There are many different types of inspections that can be done utilizing 3D technologies:

* One of the fastest and most informative types of inspections is the Dimensional Deviation, CAD to Part Inspection. A typical process for a Scan Arm, the scan data is compared to the original CAD model in a software package which will then show deviations by a color map.
* A variation of the Dimensional Deviation is the Virtual Assembly Analysis. By using reference points, such as interface datums, we have the capability to, in a virtual environment, simulate and identify how parts will fit together in their real-world assembly. We can do this by using assembly characteristics of the part (such as weld points, slots, and holes) to apply the mating constraints during assembly. This is also known as a “reference point fit” which can discreetly control part movement in any axis of each control point. The analysis can show part collision or spacing in a real world scenario done virtual.
* Parts can also be measured while they are in the process of being machined, an On-Machine Inspection allows for important characteristics to be measured and changes to be made while the piece or tool is still being created. These are typically done with either a Portable CMM with probe and scanner, or a laser tracker depending on the size of the object being machined.
* Similar to on-machine inspections, are real time inspections for Installation Alignment. This is helpful for installations of major equipment and is typically done with a laser tracker, PCMM, or similar.
* Perhaps the most comprehensive of the inspections is the First Article Inspection (FAI) which involves a thorough point to point inspection of a physical part against the production drawing dimensions. This is a very typical process for a portable CMM.

Getting Started

In the previous chapters, to get you going, we discussed the software products that we use literally every day here at Direct Dimensions. Below are the products that take the 3D measured data from the portable arms and scanners and perform the inspection analysis processes.

Each of them has some capabilities to perform the two main types of inspection – discreet point dimensional inspection and dense point cloud comparison analysis. Some have more comprehensive capabilities that include GD&T or special case analyses; and some specialize in certain areas such as ease of use or multi-scanner integration more than others.

At Direct Dimensions, we use all of these regularly and help our customer understand the strengths of each package relative to their specific application and company needs. If we are performing the project for someone as a service, they get the satisfaction of knowing we will use the best software for their inspection. Feel free to call us directly for more specifics on how these packages compare for your needs.

* CAM 2 Measure X (by Faro)
* Geomagic Qualify
* InnovMetric PolyWorks Inspector
* Rapidform XOV
* Verisurf

Now what can I do with my model?

Having learned what you can do with your data: inspect, reverse engineer or digitally model, we are now ready for the fun part! Chapter 6 will be an overview of the downstream applications for 3D models. The possibilities are numerous and we and our customers are thinking of new ideas every day.


Monday, July 12, 2010

CMSC 2010

If you are at CMSC this week, make sure to stop by booth 107 and say hello!


Thursday, July 8, 2010

3D Scanning Newsletter - July

July's newsletter includes the following highlights:

15 Great Projects Over the Past 15 Years:
In honor of our 15th anniversary this year, we picked out some of our favorite and most impressive projects. It wasn't easy to choose just 15 but we managed to pick out one incredible project per year.

Recreating the First Flight
For this story we looked back at one of our first major jobs - digitize and replicate the original 1903 Wright Brothers' Propeller for the 100th Anniversary of Flight.

15th Anniversary Slideshow
See the projects, people and events that have contributed to an amazing 15 years.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Note from Michael Raphael

Direct Dimensions, Inc. began offering portable 3D measurement services in the spring of 1995. At that time, 3D industrial measurement technology was in its infancy as portable computing power was just beginning to develop. Somewhere around then we got our first laptop – hardly even a computer much less a laptop by today’s standards!

Having helped develop a revolutionary new industrial 3D measurement device called the Faro Arm in the early 90’s, I was inspired to start this company dedicated to the application of advanced 3D measurement technologies for a wide variety of uses. More than a company, we strove to create an environment which inspired innovation and development; a place where our employees, as well as our customers and vendors would embrace the challenge of implementing new technologies.

Year after year, together, we have pushed the limits of a broadening range of 3D technologies to solve increasingly complex problems for an expanding spectrum of industries and applications. Today we can look back at our portfolio of thousands of such projects – all contributing to a body of knowledge within our company that I feel is unsurpassed anywhere in the world.

Fifteen years ago we started with a single Faro Arm. Shortly after that we added a Kreon laser line scanner. Since then we have continued to add new tools for solving 3D problems of nearly every size and shape. Our company has essentially evolved into a working R&D lab, outfitted with advanced equipment and talented employees all underwritten by the services and products we provide to our customers.

As we continue to take on new challenges, new employees, and new equipment, we will continue to discover better ways to solve 3D problems. Projects that were unimaginable 15 years ago and nearly impossible 10 years ago, we can now accomplish in hours. Our innovation and perseverance have allowed us to expand our customer base beyond our original aerospace roots. We now provide fast, affordable, and accurate 3D scanning and modeling services to virtually all industries, including art, architecture, consumer products, the medical field, and the entertainment industry.

Beyond our little 3D industry, recent innovations in social media now allow us to keep in better contact with our admirers. The creation of YouTube and SlideShare offer excellent platforms to showcase our highly visual projects and presentations. We also send out regular newsletters, have a company blog, and we even tweet!

A special thank you to our many wonderful customers, vendors, and employees who have helped make the last 15 years so successful. We look forward to the next 15!

Michael Raphael,
Founder, President & Chief Engineer, Direct Dimensions, Inc.


15 Great Projects Over the Past 15 Years

Over the past 15 years we've worked on many truly incredible projects. From art and architecture to aerospace and automotive, and these are just the A's. Below are 15 of our favorites, one from each year, and it wasn't easy to choose.

1995: Olympic Sculpture Brought to Life - One of our first 3D sculpture projects way back in our founding year, was to digitize a 4-foot model of a sculpture to help fabricate a monumental sized public art piece for the 1996 Olympics Games in Atlanta. Our 3D data was used for structural analysis.
1996: Power Generation Components - We reverse engineered our first compressor, impeller, turbine blade, and diaphragm way back in 1996 for upgrading power plants. Back then we used contact digitizers before the laser scanners of today existed.
1997: Recreating Unique Automobiles – One of our earliest historic automotive projects was digitizing a one-of-a-kind 1951 Cunningham roadster, considered the first modern American sports car. Our data was used to create reproductions.
1998: Digitizing the Wright Propellers - To recreate the Wright Bro.’s first flight from 1903 in honor of the 2003 centennial, an airplane reproduction company asked us to reverse engineer original propellers from several historic Wright planes. We collaborated with the US Army in Edgewood.
1999: 3D Digital Facial Prosthetics – Back in 1999 we scanned our first ear to make a medical prosthesis. We scanned a plaster cast of an ear and mirrored it to create a digital version of the missing opposite ear. This digital file was also used to make an RP for a surgical guide.

2000: Aircraft OML Scanning for Analysis – Early in the new decade we scanned our first of many "outside mold line" aircraft exteriors for CFD analysis. Back then we used a laser tracker, today we use the amazing Surphaser.
2001: Lincoln Memorial Scan - Just weeks after 9/11, the U.S. Gov't called with a very special request. They wanted to see how 3D scanning could digitally preserve monuments and artifacts in case of catastrophe. We demonstrated this with Abe at the Lincoln Memorial.
2002: Monumental Church 'Monument' - We traveled to Richmond, VA to 3D laser scan a decaying marble monument from 1811. Our completely restored digital model enabled the rebuilding of a new monument exactly as it was designed originally.
2003: Ray Lewis Marble Bust – We scanned Baltimore Raven's player Ray Lewis and made a beautiful life-like marble bust which was auctioned off for his charity. Since then we've done Amelia, Kelly Ripa, and Natalie Portman. Oh boy!
2004: Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – We laser scanned and digitally restored the Tomb of the Unknowns. Our 3D digital model may be used one day to fabricate a replacement for the cracked monument.
2005: Scanning the Liberty Bell - One of our most significant efforts ever has been our work with the Liberty Bell. We have scanned it three times over 6 years with increasingly better technology. Today we have a fingerprint level digital model of this famous icon.
2006: 3D Animated Political Cartoons – We have a lot of fun working with renowned political cartoonist - Kal. We scanned his exaggerated clay sculptures, including George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama so he could make 3D animated political cartoons.
2007: 3D Scanning Helps U.S. Solider – For years we've worked with Johns Hopkins to develop radical new methods for 3D digital prosthetics. In 2007 we helped create a new nose for a soldier wounded in Iraq. This was truly one of our most rewarding projects and it was later featured on CNN.
2008: Laser Scanning Buildings for BIM – As early adopters of long range scanning for historic preservation as well as ships and airplanes, its logical to also scan and model large building structures. Often these models feed into BIM for downstream re-design and analysis.
2009: Scanning Aircraft with the Surphaser – We are constantly testing new 3D products from all over the world. This year we implemented the Surphaser as a fantastic new scanning tool for a wide range of projects - from cars to airplanes and everything in between!

2010: Matisse Sculpture 3D Analysis - A major art exhibition opened at MoMA in New York featuring extensive technical analysis of Matisse's "Back" sculptures. Our team played a huge role with our various 3D technologies for scanning, modeling, and analyzing the pieces for this important and unique exhibit.

Our team at Direct Dimensions, combined with our tools, history, experience, and skills, is quite unique in the United States and perhaps the entire world. We simply don't know of another organization with the variety of tools and talent that we've accumulated over the past 15 years. The above glimpse into 15 projects over our first 15 years amazes us and should amaze you too. It is very exciting to look back but even more exciting to think about what the next 15 years will bring.

Thanks for reading thru this and we welcome your feedback and reposts to your friends about this amazing list.

From your 3D friends at Direct Dimensions.